Creative Coaching: Teaching coaches to be Creative and Innovative.

Creative Coaching: Teaching coaches to be Creative and Innovative.


Write down your own list of the top ten skills of quality coaching. What does it look like? Something like this?

  1. Communication skills;
  2. Passion;
  3. Empathy with athletes;
  4. The ability to engage with athletes and inspire athletes to fully engage with the program;
  5. Enthusiasm;
  6. Technical knowledge;
  7. An understanding of the relevant principles of sports science and sports medicine;
  8. Energy;
  9. Curiosity (which inspires a passion for learning);
  10. A commitment to continuous improvement and accelerated learning.

You could add hundreds of skills to this list: experience, drive, initiative, the will to win, attention to detail, commitment, vision, determination, a strong work ethic…………there are as many desirable coaching skills as there are coaches.

But, in this century, there is one coaching skill to rule them all – creativity: creative coaching.

The question is…...can you teach coaches to be creative?

The simple answer is – to quote the US President – Yes we can! We can teach coaches to be creative.

It is not easy: it is much easier to teach what’s known, what’s been published, what’s been researched, or what’s been done before than it is to teach coaches how to create something new.

But, now, more than ever, creativity is a critical coaching skill and the ability to accelerate learning faster than your opposition has never been more important.

In the pre-Internet days, coaches came up with new ideas, created new plays, created new training techniques and gained a winning advantage over their opposition.

Now, any winning advantage lasts about two minutes!!!

You come up with a new idea, you nurture it, you grow it, you kick it around with your coaching colleagues seeking feedback and after a lot of thinking you decide to take a risk by introducing it to your athletes at training and……..two minutes later…..the dad of one of the athletes has taken a video of your revolutionary new idea on his Blackberry, uploaded it to YouTube and players all over the world have free and immediate access to your best and most brilliant thinking.

That’s the world we live in and the half-life of ideas is only going to get shorter as mobile technologies and social media tools become more efficient, more powerful, more accessible and cheaper.

So, the challenge for coaches seeking to gain a winning advantage is to become more creative: to create new ideas, new directions and new paths to help athletes to enhance their performance.

Winning coaching in this century means learning faster, creating faster and applying ideas faster: faster than your opposition and faster than at anytime in the history of sport.

Five Golden Rules of Creative Coaching:

  1. The idea must be new to your sport – it can’t just be a copy of something someone else is doing or has done. But it can be an idea you have from another sport or another field of endeavour;
  2. It must work – it must improve performance;
  3. It must be able to be communicated and understood by athletes who can then use the idea to accelerate their rate of their performance enhancement;
  4. It must itself be flexible and also subject to change, adaptation and evolution: there is no place for static thinking in sport;
  5. It must not be limited by the restrictions or boundaries of past thinking, i.e. to be truly creative the idea must not have limits imposed on it based on what has worked or not worked in the past.

The opportunity for the creative coach to be successful has never been greater. In the past, the opportunity to be a successful coach may have been limited to the coach’s access to quality information, the latest coaching resources or coach education programs.

Now, all you need is access to a laptop and an Internet connection and all that has limited you in the past is readily available.

  • Want to learn drills for football? There are hundreds of free videos on YouTube on football drills.
  • Want to read and listen to the views of world class coaches on success and winning? Google the name of the world’s leading coaches and see what comes up……tens of thousands of pages of information.
  • Want to find out how to test aerobic capacity of athletes? Then search for “aerobic tests for athletes” on Yahoo and look at the hundreds of options you get.

Knowledge is not the limiting factor in coaching: it’s creativity. It’s being more creative than your opposition and it’s your capacity to take what’s known and, by being creative, going into the unknown.


  1. With the plethora of information available through the Internet and the capacity for coaches (and athletes and parents of athletes) to get any information they need anywhere, anytime, knowledge is no longer the “power” of coaching;
  2. Whereas ten years ago, the core skills of coaching were knowledge based – e.g. technical knowledge, sports science knowledge, planning and periodization knowledge, now with powerful portable computers, Smart-phones and other electronic devices so widely available, you can pretty much assume that everyone knows what you know. There are no “secret sets”, no “magic gym sessions” – everyone knows what you know;
  3. So given that everyone has access to the same knowledge base – as a coach how can you win?
    • By learning faster and accelerating your rate of learning;
    • By creating new, effective, innovative ways of doing what you do;
    • By creating an effective learning environment where your athletes can learn faster than their opposition;
    • By not limiting your sources of  creativity, inspiration and ideas to sources within your own sport;
    • By rejecting TTWWDIH (that’s the way we do it here) thinking and anything that limits open thinking, creativity and innovation – accept no limits to your learning and no cage for your creativity;
  4. Creativity as a core coaching skill has never been more important: take a risk, be innovative and change your sport with creative coaching.

Coming in March 2010: How to be creative – thinking and coaching outside the box.

Wayne Goldsmith


  • Travis Posted March 3, 2010 10:29 pm

    Interesting article, very thought provoking. I believe creativity in coaching comes in many forms. I think the most creative coaches are the ones that have a core value system and coaching philosophy and they are quick to adapt, learn and identify new ways of doing things then get out of the way and let their staff or players implement these new methods, ideas or drills with the freedom to create and the discipline to execute.

    I have undertaken performance profiling and performance management tests as part of a post graduate uni course and a 360-degree review system for work and they all say the same thing, i lack creativity and innovation, however, in terms of my coaching tool bag it’s one of my strengths that helps differentiates myself from the other coaches.
    Sometimes believing in your system and being bold is creativity in itself?

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted March 4, 2010 6:11 am

      Hi Travis,

      I have recently read Ken Robinson’s book on Creativity – the Element (which I think should be core reading for all coaches) and he suggests that creativity is linked to action. He suggests that everyone can be creative because creativity is imagination (and everyone can imagine, dream, visualise) plus action – so when you actually do something to turn what you imagine into something real – that’s creativity.

      So in your terms – your beliefs plus being bold to put your beliefs into action = creativity!



  • Jeremy Pryce Posted December 6, 2010 11:09 pm

    Hi guys!

    I´m a fan of Sir Ken and a firm believer that creativity requires action. I look at it this way: Knowledge relates only to potential. Wisdom is knowledge applied correctly. When you get to the expert level, creativity is wisdom applied in a new way.

    @Travis: Keep at it!


    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted December 15, 2010 11:27 am

      Thanks Jeremy.

      Real creativity is very very rare in sport. Those who have it – those rare individuals who dare to be different and think things and do things no one else has done before are the greatest of the great.


  • Rob Shugg Posted December 22, 2010 3:04 pm

    Ive been reading your blog with great interest – loved your take on sports science research –

    Though not a coach myself, I have spent a lot of time developing tools for coaches (and sports scientists) to extend their understanding of what makes athletes perform.

    I agree that coaches need to learn fast, innovate and adapt if they are to excel.

    Looking forward to your next post!

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted December 22, 2010 3:56 pm

      Thanks Rob.

      If you had to write a position description for a coach it would be “find a way to win”.

      Finding a way to win means accelerating your rate of improvement faster than your opposition.

      Accelerating your rate of improvement means learning faster than your opposition.

      Winning comes down to your ability to learn and to apply that learning to planning, preparation and performance.

      Thanks for the comment.


  • Rob Shugg Posted December 23, 2010 10:06 am

    Thats right, speed in assimilating and applying knowledge is the key.
    We are heavily involved in athlete monitoring and work with teams across all the football codes and its surprising how diverse the attitudes toward new ideas are.
    What we have also seen is that the most successful practitioners are those that tend to share a lot of their knowledge quite freely in public forums – to them is all about constant innovation – they understand competitive advantages are only ever short lived. By the time their competitors are using the methods presented at the last conference you can bet they’ll be on to the next big idea.


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